With the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) brought a step closer by the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses’ continued success relies on their ability to use information and communication technology (ICT) to its fullest – and that depends on having people with ICT skills. The question facing many business leaders is what skills, specifically, their business and people need to stay ahead of the digital curve.
According to Prudence M. Mathebula, the founder and Managing Director of Dynamic DNA, a leading training and skills development company empowering Africa’s ICT generation, a few critical skills areas have emerged as critical for businesses.
She explains that these required skills coincide with the basic backbones of 4IRT technology: networks, coding and apps, and the ability to keep workforces functional and customers happy.
Cloud and security backbones
First, then, are skills in the underlying technologies that support the 4IR: Cloud networking and cyber security analytics, where certification in solutions by Amazon (Amazon Web Services, or AWS), Microsoft (Azure), and Google (Google Cloud Platform) are most in demand.
“This accelerated demand for cloud skills is a direct result of the pandemic, which forced a migration toward distance learning and remote work,” Mathebula says.
Added to that, Forrester Research expects that enterprises will accelerate their move into cloud-scale applications to meet their competitive challenges this year.
Coding languages, apps and UX
The cloud backbone allows for the next thing businesses will need skills to develop: mobile apps, coding (which is now being introduced in schools from primary school) and quality assurance testing on those apps and systems.
“But what’s the use of having an app that doesn’t deliver an exciting and easy user experience (UX), how a person feels when interacting with a system? Hence skills in user interface (UI) design and UX itself are increasingly important across industries, not just marketing and gaming, its traditional fields of dominance,” Mathebula explains.
Support, AI and ML
Technical support – for both employees and customers – becomes critically important in this environment and hence is another skill that companies are searching for. Although it is often an entry-level position for technicians, the skills required are very customer-centric, including putting customers first, having a sound understanding of the basics of the company’s apps and systems, and knowing how to help people without making them feel stupid. An analytical mind is key too, to help find the source of a problem a user or employee may be experiencing.
An analytical mind also underpins one of the most sought-after skills: data science, the building block of two other scarce skills, namely automation and machine learning.
“The global machine learning market alone is expected to reach $20.83 Billion by the year 2024 – just imagine how many people will be required to drive it, despite what naysayers believe about potential job losses,” Mathebula remarks.
Despite the apparent focus on technical skills, a key component of working with advanced technologies is that people need to understand more than just the technologies themselves. They also need softer skills, such as empathy and business acumen.
“These advanced technologies work best when the people who understand how they work are also able to understand what other people – consumers, employees – need and can innovate, develop, and adapt the tech to support the people,” Mathebula concludes.
One way that Mathebula believes individuals can take advantage of this skills demand is to take specialised, certified courses which can range from one year to a few months in duration for one qualification and depending on the course, and with the advancement of technology many of these can be done online.
“It is important to ensure that these courses are aligned with the MICT SETA qualifications framework and provided by a recognised training provider,” she advises. “This ensures that you receive quality education given by qualified lecturers with a certificate that is internationally recognised.”